Politicians Going Slow On Urgent Need For Porn Inquiry

Politicians are taking so long to deal with the urgent social issue of pornography harm in society, and are also continuing to call for a truly independent Expert Panel to investigate and provide solutions for families.

The Select Committee has been considering a 22,334-written petition calling for “an expert panel be appointed to investigate the public health effects and societal harms of pornography to both children and adults, and to make policy recommendations to Parliament” which was presented over 18 months ago. The committee is yet to release their report.

We do welcome the recent decision by the Select Committee as a result of our Submissions to expand the porn harm investigation to include adult usage and societal effects, but we are still concerned that the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) is overseeing the investigation. An effective inquiry needs to be completely independent from the industry and government who currently set the laws and standards and act as the ‘watchdog.

Many people see the Censor’s role as contributing to the overall problem by allowing objectionable material to be viewed by both young people and adults. It seems inappropriate to us that the ‘regulators’ are overseeing an analysis of the effects of the ‘regulation’. Placing the OFLC in charge of the investigation is like placing the ‘fox in charge of the hen house’.

A truly independent Expert Panel would be able to process the huge amount of international and national research in this area on the effects on health, the complex and contentious nature of the harms of pornography, the balance between appropriate censorship v freedom of expression, the role and equipping of parents, and other issues that arise, to provide an achievable solution to this health issue based on credible expertise.

We already know there’s a problem. It’s time for urgent solutions. The annual cost of sexual violence ($1.2 billion) warrants the one-off investment in this Expert Panel Inquiry.

The Ministry of Health in its submission on the petition acknowledged that “the content of pornography has changed significantly over the last 20 years and has become more extreme, deviant and violent” and that “violence towards women and girls is depicted in 80% of online content. This has a variety of harmful impacts on children and young people’s sexual expectations, attitudes, and behaviour.” However, the Ministry admits that it hasn’t undertaken any research in the area of pornography but is supportive of the petition’s call.

The response to our petition has been phenomenal, but indicative of the community concern over this issue. Society is starting to catch up with the science on the harms of pornography. There has been an important national conversation around consent and ‘rape culture’. At the same time, there is increasing consumption and availability of online pornography and sexual violence. It’s time we connected the dots.

A nationwide poll in April 2017 found high levels of concern around the effects of online pornography and its link to sexual violence, and the easy access that young people have to offensive material. It also found significant support for action from government and internet providers in terms of filtering and Opt-Out provisions.

If we want to tackle sexual violence, we must first admit the role that pornography plays and the harm that it does to attitudes and actions,

It is also highly ironic that the same broadcaster which has broadcast two series of “Naked Attraction” is currently highlighting the harms of pornography. Perhaps they can be part of the solution.